Homeland, Ep. 2.06-07: “A Gettysburg Address” and “The Clearing” tackle the season’s trickiest plot point

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Homeland, Season 2, Episodes 6 and 7:
“A Gettysburg Address”
Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Guy Ferland
“The Clearing”
Written by Meredith Stiehm
Directed by John Dahl
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime

When it comes to becoming invested in serialized television, faith is a major factor. Showrunners need to build up a significant reserve of the stuff if they’re planning on storytelling tangents or character decisions that aren’t immediately compelling, or may seem to contradict some element of the show’s universe. In the case of Homeland, Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon have done such a stellar job keeping the show’s pace at a crackerjack level, not to mention the consistent stream of game-changing twists, that a little narrative drag from time to time is more than acceptable.

But it’s likely that no individual plot has caused as many eyerolls as the Dana and the Veep’s Kid Kill a Person strain. Not only are these characters peripheral (at best) to the corners of the show we actually care about (you know, the ones involving spies and terrorists and tension), but the randomness of the event couldn’t help but bring to mind similar missteps on previous series, especially The Big Bad Thing that arises in Friday Night Lights‘s second season. It has the feeling of just another complication thrown in where none was needed.

Luckily, as on Friday Night Lights, Gansa and Howard have managed to, more or less, integrate this plotline into the show’s broader universe by sticking to their guns and taking the repercussions of the event seriously. In “A Gettysburg Address,” Dana tracks down the woman they struck, discovering that she’s a goner; it becomes rapidly apparent that she and Finn have very different notions of personal responsibility, owing to their divergent backgrounds.

There’s a nifty little shift in our perception of Finn in “The Clearing,” the stronger of the two episodes. Where previous episodes invited us to see Finn as merely a spoiled little brat eager to wipe his slate clean, “The Clearing” (dig the double meaning) makes plain that Finn is merely a natural product of a life spent as a beyond-first-class citizen, someone for whom accountability will never be a serious consideration; that dynamic has clearly corroded the kid’s sense of morality, not to mention rendering him openly miserable.

The manner in which “The Clearing” folds in the Dana/Finn plot doesn’t redeem the plotline, exactly, but it does rather cannily exploit the queasy ethical and moral issues it dredges up in order to make Brody’s life even more difficult and contradictory. His daughter wants to do nothing more than what’s right, but his own position as a terrorist-cum-spy has now made that moral stance untenable. What kind of a future is he setting up for her as a result? He now lives a father’s nightmare as well as a patriot’s.

If Season 2 has been short on anything, it’s been the Carrie/Saul dynamic that fuelled so much of the show’s unusually strong inaugural season. In a way, we get an askew flashback to their many scenes together in “The Clearing,” which sees Saul reunite with the captured radical he drove back tot he States from Mexico last year, Aileen Morgan. Aileen behaves very much as we might expect Carrie would, had she been placed in as hopeless a position as Aileen is here, right down to manipulating Saul and the Agency in order to get her way – that is, to end her life in a room with a view. Given that the presence of Quinn has acted as a kind of buffer between Carrie and the rest of the Agency, we may have to settle for this grim alternate-universe plot thread.

With Brody’s marriage likely to be on the rocks – if not completely obliterated – now that he and Carrie are openly making contact (he previously told Jessica that Carrie had been discredited and no longer in the picture), and his double-agent status and increasing political capital dricing him up the wall, it seems as though we’re rapidly approaching a serious breaking point for a man who’s been broken once or twice already. That we have no idea what this entails for those around him is very exciting indeed.

Simon Howell

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